When it was announced several weeks ago that Bruno Sammartino would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame the night before WrestleMania XXIX, the wrestling world rejoiced. Many fans are obviously eager to see "The Living Legend" back on WWE programming, but the WWE would be best off saving him until the Hall of Fame ceremony itself.
Sammartino hasn't been involved with the WWE since leaving in 1988 and his issues with Vince McMahon are well documented. During a recent interview with Ring Rust Radio, Sammartino explained that rampant drug use and an edgier product caused him to essentially boycott the WWE for many years, but things have changed over the past few months.
As Sammartino has discussed on numerous occasions since his induction was announced, Triple H is the one who brokered his new and improved relationship with the WWE. Triple H did a lot to ease Sammartino's mind as he explained that the WWE's stringent drug policy has really cleaned things up. Also, the current television product is TV-PG, so it is enjoyable for the entire family, which is something that means a lot to Sammartino.
With all of that in mind, Sammartino decided to accept the WWE's invitation after turning it down many times in the past. While the main reason behind bringing Sammartino back was to legitimize the Hall of Fame, I'm sure the WWE has plans to use him in other ways as well. He'll be invaluable in terms of providing commentary for DVD's and his likeness will probably be used for merchandise, too. On top of that, the WWE would love to make him as visible as possible.
With Raw taking place at the CONSOL Energy Center in Sammartino's hometown of Pittsburgh, Penn. on March 18, there has been some speculation about Sammartino potentially appearing on the show.
Sammartino would obviously get a massive pop and it might draw a bit more viewership from older fans who haven't watched wrestling in years, but it would be best to save Sammartino's first appearance for the Hall of Fame.
Sammartino hasn't been part of the WWE in a quarter of a century, so his grand return needs to be special. As cool as it would be to see Sammartino on Raw for the first time ever, especially in front of his home audience, he will have other opportunities to do so.
The WWE and most of its fans have waited a very long time for Bruno to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and wasting his return on another event would take away from the special feeling to some degree.
Also, while Sammartino's hometown is technically Pittsburgh, his home away from home was always Madison Square Garden in New York. It's quite fitting that Sammartino will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in a building that he sold out more than any professional wrestler in history. Madison Square Garden has hosted some of the greatest events and athletes of all time, and Sammartino is definitely near the top of that list.
Because of that, Sammartino's first WWE appearance in 25 years needs to be at Madison Square Garden. This entire situation has been an extremely long time in the making and it needs to be hyped properly. If the WWE wants the anticipation for Sammartino's return to be built to a crescendo, then it won't bring him out until the Hall of Fame ceremony. It would be really easy for him to appear in Pittsburgh and he may very well be backstage regardless, but the WWE needs to pump the brakes.
The WWE no longer airs the ceremony live, but a one-hour special will be shown on the Tuesday following WrestleMania and the ensuing Monday Night Raw. Sammartino will obviously be the centerpiece of that broadcast and fans will definitely want to see his return. If the WWE were to bring him back prior to the Hall of Fame ceremony, then some fans may see no point in tuning in.
Ultimately the fact that Sammartino is back in the fold is great no matter how the WWE decides to use him. At the same time, the WWE is a business and it knows how to milk the most publicity possible out of everything. This year's Hall of Fame class is as star-studded as they come, but Sammartino is the headliner.
Hopefully the WWE uses Sammartino as often as possible moving forward because he has a lot to offer the company. As soon as the Hall of Fame ceremony is over, I would love to see him on Raw as a special guest. Sammartino may very well be the greatest professional wrestler of all time, and it's fantastic that he is finally back where he belongs. Until April 6, however, I don't want to see Bruno involved with the WWE product.
Also, listen to Ring Rust Radio's interview with Sammartino here.